The following article appears in MAPA’s spring newsletter
Singling Out Israel
Why only Israel? With all the conflict raging around the world, so many victims and victimizers “out there,” why is it inevitably Israel that receives the lion’s share of attention?
Some have put this question to Massachusetts Peace Action, following the formation last year of its Working Group on Palestine/Israel. But perhaps it is better addressed to the 351 congressional cosponsors of H.R. 938 – the “United States-Israel Strategic Partnership Act of 2013 (USISPA)”, a bill that “singles out” Israel as no other does.
H.R. 938 was one of two House measures that topped the lobbying agenda of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) last year. On March 5, 2013, AIPAC delegates went to Capitol Hill to lobby their respective representatives on behalf of USISPA. On March 6, H.R. 938 had 39 cosponsors, Massachusetts Reps. (now Senator) Ed Markey and Bill Keating among them. Reps. Joe Kennedy III and Richard Neal signed on three months later, and in January 2014, the House Foreign Affairs Committee approved the measure unanimously.
U.S. presidents may hail our “special relationship” with Britain, and our “incredible bond” with France, but neither is codified into law, the way a “Major Strategic Partner” may be – once H.R. 938 is reconciled with companion legislation in the Senate. At that point, Israel will be the “Major Strategic Partner” of the United States.
USISPA changes the schedule for Presidential certification that U.S. military aid gives Israel a “Qualitative Military Edge” from every four years to every two. It calls for “assistance…for the enhancement of” more advanced weaponry, including interceptor missile systems. The Administration’s 2014 budget allotted $96 million for this purpose; Congress tripled the amount to $284 million in December. But even this sum is small change, funded under the U.S. Missile Defense Agency’s “Israeli Cooperative Program,” which is a separate stream from Foreign Military Financing (FMF). FMF expenditures for Israel will be $3.1 billion this year ? part of a $30 billion, 10-year package (to be followed by $40 billion in FY 2019-28).
Having received $234 billion in direct aid since 1948, plus $19 billion in financial guarantees, Israel ranks as the largest cumulative recipient of U.S. foreign aid since World War II.
At least 40 U.S. charities collected more than $200 million in tax-deductible gifts for settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem during 2000-2010. The Jewish National Fund – which owns about 13% of all land in Israel – is a tax-exempt U.S. charity collecting $60 million annually, even though, according to the U.S. State Department, it “does not allow land it owns to be leased or sold to non-Jews.” Thus money that might otherwise flow to the U.S. Treasury subsidizes an occupation illegal under international law and land transactions that would be illegal if conducted in the United States.
Other vital “aid” can’t be measured in money: the protection of 45 Security Council vetoes, U.S. de-funding of UNESCO because it admitted Palestine as a member, and congressional threats to defund other UN agencies that extend membership to Palestine.
Given these many ways our government “singles out” Israel, is it surprising that U.S. peace activists are taking an increasingly critical view of how our Major Strategic Partner makes use of American largesse?